From Ruth Allen, CEO, and Guy Shennan, Chair
The largely unexpected election results have led to a much stronger opposition in Westminster, mainly through the increase in Labour seats. The result, which also saw the collapse of the UKIP vote, is being widely interpreted as a shift in public mood against austerity policies and a ‘hard Brexit’. The result was also based on the highest turn-out for 25 years, and in particular the increased participation of younger voters. These are all real causes for optimism and hope.
We appreciate that the outcome of the vote had different impacts in the four nations of the UK. There has been a return to multi-party representation in Scotland, with seats gained from the Scottish Nationalist Party by the other major parties, and we are also aware that Northern Ireland has had no functioning power-sharing Assembly for several months. Efforts to resolve the latter will be affected by the support being lent by the Democratic Unionist Party to the Conservative minority Westminster government, which is of great concern.
Although the weakness of the Conservative Party’s mandate makes an early change of Prime Minister or an early election possible, we are taking every opportunity to build relationships and influence new MPs and Ministers now, and to promote our Manifesto. We have written to every MP and relevant Ministers about our wish to meet and work with them. If there are further governmental changes, we will be ready to keep up the pressure about our priorities.
We believe the shift in mood against austerity and underfunding of public services may make governments across the UK more open to our manifesto asks which start with ending the austerity measures that particularly hurt those with care and support needs. The impact of austerity has been raised by BASW members and others through the recent #bootoutausterity walk and campaign. BASW will continue to work with others to prevent the erosion of public services and social protections systems - including the NHS, social care, housing and a fair benefits system – and to ensure social work is better supported.
The Queen’s Speech was due on 19th June - the same day as we are hosting the first UK Standing Conference for Social Work and Social Workers. The Queen’s Speech is delayed by political uncertainty, whereas the UK Standing Conference is going ahead. We will be debating key issues around the principles of good regulation and the state of social work education – priorities for the future strength and independence of the profession.
Governments come and go, but we will keep working on our professional aims to develop and build the strength of our profession and society.